This Memorial Device by David Keenan

What can I say? I read it in a couple of days, despite work etc, so I must have loved it! 

Let’s set the scene – a novel about the post-punk music scene in Airdrie (think early 1980s). But it’s entirely fictional. But told as a sort of documentary. But a documentary collated and curated by two (fictional of course) non-journalistic types. It is wonderfully chaotic.

Through conversations, interviews, letters and memories, the short life span of the band, This Memorial Device, is pieced together. There is no ordered chronology which seems to be pitched perfectly for the book. The level of detail in here kept me having to remind myself that it is indeed fiction. This includes a discography as one appendix, with a list of all the bands and derivatives, in Airdrie, during the period the book covers in another.

Like I say, it really is chaotic – a cacophony of random noise and an entourage of bizarre narrators, each offering their mostly psychedelic  takes on the music, the relationships and the band itself. These voices are friends, family members, lovers, members of other bands and the curators themselves. If you find yourself irritated by a narrator, fear not, there’ll be another one along in a minute. And then another, and then another……

Having briefly been in a band and enjoyed the interplay between the characters, I found myself smiling at some of the ensuing carnage. But this carnage is at a whole new level. As is the prose, this book will never be criticised for ‘descriptive’!

Pretty much all of the voices are a step removed from the physicality of what they are describing. There is so much psychological wandering with dreamy and figurative metaphor. Apart from the sex! The ‘cocks’, ‘scrotums’ and ‘tits’ are described in admirable detail. 

Honestly, I’ve never read anything like it. I bought into the story completely and devoured it in a couple of days. But you need to want to read it, you can’t just fall into it. I’m just glad my life has none of the random unpredictability the book describes.

If you’re looking for something new and completely different to challenge your reading brain, and maybe are of a certain age to appreciate some of the reference points in the book, I’d recommend giving this a whirl.

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